"In Mother of Pearl, larger than life portraits draw connections between nature and anatomy, object and beauty. As my previous work on the subject of beauty and hair evolves, my recent drawings weave the female figure with familiar forms from the natural world. Inspired by the aesthetic and symbolic qualities of pearl, they transmute this hard gem beyond ornament.
Rendered with soft pastel and coloured pencils, aloof women and sisters are portrayed at ease in surreal and sensual environments. Appearing to bud from flesh, their pearls become more ovum than gemstone; a living extension of the body that looks to be sensitive to touch. Small, luminous and iridescent, I imagine them as a concentration of power and pleasure in contrast to the soft surrounding vessel of flesh and hair. As each woman is preoccupied with a subject beyond the frame, the solitary pearl in Conch Eye is where the subject meets the viewer’s gaze forming the exhibition’s only confrontation.
This series teases the legacy of this heirloom object. The natural pearl is rare and coveted while those carefully cultivated are pejoratively cast alongside their imitations. Considering these roots in opulence and oppression, my work occupies an atmosphere rife with both elegance and absurdity. Each woman is suspended in her own world and subverts biological expectations: whether by zoomorphic ability as in Hidden Trails or birthing their own environments as in Belle Nacre. In each performance of femininity is a wellspring of endless creation, expression and transgression: a sentiment I see echoed in the color-shifting iridescent nature of mother of pearl."
-Winnie Truong, 2017